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Raiders open with two triumphs

LA MIRADA, Calif. — Regardless of what happens on the second day of the Biola Invitational, the Southern Oregon University volleyball team will remember California a little more fondly this year after starting its season on a high note Thursday.

An overpowering attack and some strong defensive performances got the Raiders by the Cal State-San Marcos Cougars in four sets in their first match of the day, 25-16, 23-25, 25-21, 25-17. The Raiders then had to rally for a five-set win over Westmont, their outside hitters keying a 25-21, 19-25, 21-25, 25-19, 15-11 decision.

In her debut as a starter, outside hitter Motade Atanda impressed with a career-high 20 kills on 50 swings to go with 10 digs during the opener, and in the same match, Paulla Pinheiro matched that double-double with 10 kills, 17 digs and three aces. They were just as effective a couple hours later against Westmont, as Atanda one-upped herself with 21 kills and eight digs, and Pinehiro went for 17 kills on 41 swings and 14 digs.

"The outsides lit it up today," SOU head coach Josh Rohlfing said. "And the middles were very good, too."

To his latter point, Emma Gasman had 11 kills in the first match and six with 10 assisted blocks in the second, and Nikki Keller was in on six blocks with eight kills in the opener before notching seven kills on 14 swings and six assisted blocks against Westmont.

Brookelynn Cole was handy as she officially took over SOU's full-time libero role, corralling 41 digs on the day. Lauren McGowne had 47 assists against San Marcos and 52 with eight digs against Westmont.

The Raiders out-hit the Cougars, .236 to .201, and limited the Cougars to two service aces. San Marcos' .265 mark in a victory second set looked like an anomaly; they were sub-.090 in every other. Westmont had marginally better success hitting against the Raiders, but only got above .176 in one set and allowed a .205 clip for the match.

SOU lost all four matches to nationally-ranked teams at this tournament last year, and the weekend ended up weighing them down in terms of NAIA rankings all season.

The Raiders can expect increasingly strenuous tests today when they face 22nd-ranked Vanguard at 2 p.m. and second-ranked Concordia-Irvine at 8 p.m. Vanguard topped Bellevue and 13th-ranked Dordt, while Concordia handled Dordt and 17th-ranked Rocky Mountain on the first day.